The debate over whether piracy affects the sales of copyrighted materials, such as books, games, and movies, has been the subject of much controversy over the last few decades. The rise of peer-to-peer file sharing enabling users to freely share content without much supervision and the subsequent governmental lobbying by organisations like movie publishers to clamp down on sites that provide such services have also turned it into a matter of legislative importance.
This has resulted in various legislative bodies funding research into the correlation between piracy and any perceived fall in sales. One such study was funded by the European Commission in 2014 for a sum of €360,000 and apparently buried.
Ecorys, an economic research firm based in the Netherlands, was hired by the European Commission to conduct a study on the effect of piracy of sales for several months, whose findings eventually concluded:
“In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect.”
In fact, the study suggested that piracy may actually boost the sales of games and that the release of major blockbuster films was the only instance where a negative correlation between piracy and sales was found.
The full length of the 304-page report that contains these and other findings was, however, not published by the EU and was only recently released after a member of the European Parliament, Julia Reda, obtained a copy and published it on her personal blog.
The EU has been accused of foul play and intentionally suppressing the details of the report by the European Digital Rights organisation. The privacy and data protection watchdog refers to an academic paper published by European Commission officials that selectively pertains to the correlation found by the Ecorys report with regard to film sales but disregards the rest of its findings, raising questions about the EU's veracity in tackling the issue of piracy.